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Monday, January 30, 2006

A Rare Living Legend



Awesome, amazing, exquisite, class, elegant, breath taking, touching, fabulous, unforgettable , are just few of the words which comes to my mind when I try and find words to explain my experience of watching Manna Dey perform live recently .

Very seldom do we come across situation when words fail to capture the moments of ecstasy ,joy and bliss one experiences in life .Watching and listening the legendary talent perform live was one such moment in my life. My mind went numb, my ideas stopped flowing, and my critical faculties stopped questioning for those very special moments of musical sojourn.

Manny dey is perhaps the only living legend of the bygone era when Indian film music produced prodigies and artist with such special talent. SD Burma, Hemant Kumar, and Manna dey have a very special place in the history of Indian Cinema and Indian Music. Together these three legends formed a special school of music which was inspired by the legacy of Bengal school of Music.

Haunting melodies, romantic duets, classical ragas or melancholic elegies, they had all class, style and a special touch which can only be experienced in this style of music.

Bron in 1920 as Prabodhchandra Dey ,Manna Dey was in two minds after graduating from Vidyasagar College, Calcutta - whether to become a barrister or a playback singer. He was under the mesmeric spell of his illustrious uncle K.C. Dey, the well-known singer and popular star of New Theaters. The uncle took the nephew under his wings and the result was the phenomenon called Manna Dey (petname 'Manna' was given by K.C. Dey), who would go on to enthrall millions for five decades with his lilting songs that refuse to age with time. Manna Dey grew up to the soft strains of Baul songs, Rabindra-sangeet, and khayal. K.C. Dey put his nephew through the paces acquainting him with the subtleties of tappa, thumri, bhajan and qawwali. With the disintegration of the New Theaters in 1940, K.C. Dey left for Bombay in search of fresh pastures.

Manna joined his uncle and started off in Bombay as the assistant to music director H.P. Das. His first break came a year later when he recorded a solemn number for the character of Valmiki in Vijay Bhatt's "Ram Rajya". Years of struggle followed, at times compelling the talented singer to wonder if his choice of career was the right one, and what followed next is history.

Manna Dey has always been a perfectionist, and he continues to remain so at this age too.He is the only artiste who makes notations before recording a song, so that he can sing and record a song just after one rehearsal. Anil Biswas rightly observed that though Manna Dey could sing everything that Rafi, Talat and Mukesh sang they could not sing what Manna Dey sang.

During his five decades in the film industry, Manna Dey always marshalled all his recourses to render his songs to the highest standards he was capable of achieving to the demands of the moment.

Hit numbers such as ‘Poochho na kaise maine rain beetayee’, ‘Laga chunari mein daag’, ‘Aye meri zohra jabeen’, ‘Na to karavaan ki talaash hai’ and ‘Chunri sambhaal gori’ (the last with Lata) and the absolutely mad ‘Ek chatur naar’ from Padosan to name a few, spin a tale of Indian life. ‘All that I have attained in music is because of my uncle's training,’ says Manna Dey with a sense of modesty. The last film he sang for was Nana Patekar’s Prahar.

He rarely lent his voice to any hero of great stature except occasionally, for Raj Kapoor. While Talat Mahmood and Mukesh went on to become the voices of Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor respectively Manna Dey was banished to complement the acrobatics of Mehmood in songs like Ek chatur nar kar ke singaar; Aao twist karen; Hato Jaono jhoti banao batian; Pyar ki aag mein tan badan jal gaya; Khali dabba khali botal etc.

The singer’s had a special affection for R.D.Burman and Shankar -Jaikishan.Manna Dey sang a song ‘Aao twist kare’ for Mehmood's ‘Bhoot Bangla’ which was a lift from ‘Come let us twist’. Before recording the Hindi number, R.D.Burman sang the original English song in such great style that Manna Dey, the recordist and the musicians were breathless.

With Shankar –Jaikishan too Manna Dey shared a special bond of affection and friendship. He cherishes his long meetings with them in their music room where he would sing for them for hours. The singer won his Filmfare award for ‘Ae bhai zara dekh ke chalo’, the toe-tapping number, from Raj Kapoor's Mera Naam Joker.

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